Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How to learn from each other

By: Torey Richardson, Health Support Professional

 Working at HCS has put numerous things into perspective, but most importantly made me realize how blessed I truly am. Often times we take the simplest things for granted without giving it much thought. Imagine not being able to verbally communicate your wants and needs -- and imagine the communication barrier that can create.
While many people are fortunate to have friends or family call and visit or even go home for the holidays, others for various reasons are not as fortunate. This is why forming relationships with the people who choose our services, and also helping foster relationships is crucial. By making these connections we are able to better support individuals by not only learning how they communicate, but also teaching others how to communicate with them. This results in limitless possibilities. Individuals are able to join groups within their communities, socialize with their neighbors, and much more. I believe it is our responsibility to change the stigma that ignorantly implies that if a person cannot verbally communicate, then they cannot communicate at all. There is so much that we can learn from each other, if we know how and if we are willing to try.
For people recently hired and for people interested in getting to know someone who communicates differently, there are many options to help you be successful:

·         Find out what the person likes. It is always easy to engage someone in a conversation about common interests.

·         Learn American Sign Language or other ways of communicating. (Heritage Christian offers classes that teach staff how to use sign language.)

·         Ask senior staff. They were once in the position that you may be in, finding it difficult to communicate with someone. They may have useful tips that can help.

·         AND GIVE IT TIME! A lot of the individuals that we support see many different staff members come and go. The person may just be shy so give it time and eventually they may come around.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

How to find direction

By Marisa Geitner, President and C.E.O.

We might say that the first step to citizenship is to have control over our own life, but the second is to give that life direction. - Simon Duffy
Control without direction can be a risky combination. We have all found ourselves there from time to time as we work hard to gain authority over our own decisions and life, only to find we aren't quite certain what direction we'd like to head. We are just certain that we don't want others deciding for us. That's when we take a breath and remind ourselves that understanding our goals and purpose is a journey not a destination. It’s the discovery along the way that makes life so interesting.

When it comes to contemplating purpose or direction, I find perspective means everything. A healthy balance of what was and what will be should be considered. Sounds simple enough. Although you know, it's likely we spend too much time looking backward -- consuming so much of our energy on what was, retrospectively turning over our experiences time and time again in order to shape our direction, our next step. While that is an essential ingredient in healthy self-awareness it doesn't alone get us where we need to go.

To shift to a prospective view we need to ask questions. Where have we been? What have we learned? What would we do differently? What outcome do we hope to see?  What is the next step?

Purpose is like any other innovative process, it doesn't follow a straight line and it's rarely predictable. It ebbs and flows with the twists and turns of the dynamic world we live in. And yes, I know where those twist and turns take us can be very disorienting. We all get lost from time to time. That's where perspective again saves the day, just ask the questions.

As our purpose and direction take shape, we need to exercise our leadership skills as well. Why? Because we don't succeed alone. We need to encourage others, those close to us, to come along with us. We need to take hold and lead others in the direction that nurtures and respects our unique purpose and contribution, while also being thoughtful of theirs. We need the support of our natural networks to enhance our discovery along the way. Those we share time with are influential on our journey.

Balance experience of the past with hope for the future. Welcome others into your direction and aspirations. Enjoy the journey as your purpose is revealed!  Happy travels.

Friday, September 2, 2016

A focus on friendships

By Marisa Geitner, President & C.E.O.
A recent study published in the Psychology Bulletin suggests that the older we get the fewer and fewer friends we have. They go on to explain that while our social circles generally expand into adulthood, friendships actually peak and begin to decrease as early as our 20s! In addition, sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst found that we tend to lose half of our closest friends every seven years and replace them with new relationships.

I guess it stands to reason with life changes in adulthood like heading off to college, changing jobs, moving, beginning a family, etc. that our friendships frequently drift apart, even when we work hard to make them a priority.

Despite this somewhat grim realization, friendships and allies remain an essential ingredient in successfully navigating the adult world, so how do adults make new friends?  How do we build professional networks of allies? Well, adult lives can get a bit routine, so first we need to hop out of the proverbial box. We need to step out of our day-to-day routine and places of comfort and put ourselves in a position to cross paths with new and different people from time to time. If we do this we will have plenty of choice and likely connect with others who are the best match for us.

Next, we have to adjust our time. Notice I didn't say make time. Without being able to add another minute to the day, often where we need to focus is in adjusting how we are spending our time in order to better include others. I have begun inviting a friend along as I run errands; company and conversation certainly make that trip much more fun.  I also exchange help with tasks that are daunting alone; asking a colleague to help me finish up a big project by its due date, knowing that I will make myself available to assist them with their next big task.  It never hurts to invite others. Don't be afraid to ask and don't assume they are too busy! Just ask.

So why am I taking your time and attention to speak of friendship?  It’s essential in our personal lives and in our business success.  Our friends help us navigate adult decisions.  Allies, when welcomed into our conversation, help us achieve the collective impact we are hoping to have.  We are serving in transformative times alongside a very transformative organization- Heritage Christian Services.  It is our relationships and the experiences we have together as a result of those relationships that make this organization different.  We welcome others to help us achieve great results! 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Citizenship: The opportunity to serve a greater purpose

For the last few years, Heritage Christian has focused on the idea of citizenship -- the idea of honoring and respecting the rights and responsibilities that we all have. We've invited Anna Skinner, associate director of day programs in the Buffalo area, to share her thoughts. Anna...

I continue to try and wrap my head around the definition of citizenship and how it applies to our everyday life. I’ve also stepped outside of looking at it from a personal perspective and have tried applying it to a person who may have an intellectual disability. My outcome...there is no difference.

Citizenship applies to all people: In my eyes the definition is very complex but at the same time can be looked at as very simple. This involves building connections with people who have a common purpose and interest. It's a give-and-take relationship and for most people being an engaged citizen provides a strong sense of self worth, belonging and contribution.

A big question is, "How do we welcome people as equals?" This too can be very complex or looked at with a very simple answer: Be the person that welcomes people with open arms. Provide your time, talent and treasures and allow people to share theirs as well.

Think back to when you were finally able to get a job. The thought of earning your own money and having the freedom to spend it on whatever you wanted was awesome! The scary part of this journey was not having the experience, which is what we face in every step that we take in life. Experience helps you gain knowledge and skills. When people have the opportunity to gain experience and are exposed to new things this will ultimately build up our community and provide others with the opportunity to serve a greater purpose in life.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Relationships: Our most important work

By Marisa Geitner, president and C.E.O.

"The ultimate success of a service system depends upon its ability to help people maintain and develop positive, enduring, freely chosen relationships."- John O'Brien

To someone who is not familiar with companionship, loneliness can be the norm -- permanent and inevitable. Loneliness and a disconnectedness of relationship with others creates proven changes within our chemical make up as a human being, literally depriving our brain of the hormone that stimulates happiness. This isn't just an extreme phenomenon noted in those who live in isolation. Many who exist within the presence of others can still be absent connectedness and relationship. They can still be deprived of the happiness and fulfillment that comes only through meaningful interaction with others.

Loneliness hampers our day-to-day ability no matter our starting point. Think of a time when you faced a challenge and didn't have others around you whom you trusted for council, people of your choosing, not people chosen for you. Our world becomes even more disorienting when we can't seek direction through the support or challenge of others we trust. We might even find that faced with loneliness day in and day out we become anxious and depressed.

Within the human support industry we must be cautious, loneliness can still lurk in the halls of busy programs full of activity. As a matter of fact, loneliness could even be more prevalent in busy environments. Now consider those you may support: If they are shy or quiet, if they communicate in ways less traditional, if a physical limitation makes them a bit more dependent on others to initiate a social exchange, chances are they could be easily overlooked. We might zip around busying ourselves with other day-to-day supports but completely miss supporting the foundational need for connectedness and personal relationships. I know looking back, I have made that mistake time and time again.

Our most important work must be to offer and nurture personal relationships. Relationships that endure beyond shift change, weekends and staff turnover. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Making social media about social inclusion

By Debbie Hall, direct support professional

Which of these sites do you have an account for or have at least used recently? Now what about the individuals you support? 

My guess is, on average, that there is a difference. Why is that?

Whether you like it or not, social media is how we stay connected. We all use it on a daily basis in some shape or form. We keep updated on our friends and family by scrolling through pictures and status messages on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. We “talk” to others via text on Google+, Messenger, or Yahoo. We discover new things we would like to try by searching Pinterest, YouTube or Vimeo. Communication, connection, and discovering new things that we like are how we stay and become included with others. We choose to use social media as one of the mediums to do this. So, why are we not utilizing this world with those we support?

But, what would this look like? Here are some ideas on what you can do to help those you support utilize social media platforms:

  • Help create a list of people that are important and help to keep in contact via email or messenger.
  • Help post pictures and status updates about what is going on in their lives to share while having important conversations about what might not be appropriate to let others know.
  • Make a list of hobbies and interests and help/show how to scroll through sites like YouTube and Pinterest to find ways to learn new skills or improve on them.
  • Most of all, be creative and individual! Don’t be afraid to use these tools!

“In Social Media the “squeaky wheel” gets the oil. You have to put yourself out there, to find people who will relate or even debate with you, depending on what you are looking for.” - Jessica Northey

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The importance of sharing ordinary places

By Marisa Geitner, president and C.E.O.

"Without intentional activity people with disabilities are more likely to belong to a smaller world, engage in a smaller world, and be in devalued roles, more likely to have fewer choices."- John O'Brien

Great things come when we share ordinary places.

As disability support services have evolved, models have been created in a manner that separates individuals from the general community, making it necessary for support providers to consistently be seeking ways that help one gain experience "in the community."  This has also created an unintended consequence of members of the general community assuming that since individuals have paid support, they themselves need not be concerned about how to welcome those with disabilities into their community circles. They might also assume that those with support needs require separation from community in order to be successful.

Having a home within a community or attending a program within a community has been a wonderful step toward full inclusion. Our next step is simply to share ordinary places. That may mean establishing some patterns that are frequent enough it might allow for new relationships to develop. Some may join others at the town diner for the Friday night fish fry or volunteer consistently for events offered through their church or local fire department. How about connecting with a local walking club and developing relationships as you enjoy exercise and fresh air?  Do you enjoy coffee while people watching every Monday at the local coffee shop?  Ever thought about ushering at a local theater? 

Seek experiences you'll enjoy. And remember, predictability and frequency increase the likelihood that new relationships will develop by sharing time in ordinary places. It is true and lasting relationships that combat isolation and exclusion.

Find some time to extend yourself to enjoy the community that you are a part of today. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Offering a personal invitation to community

By Marisa Geitner, president and C.E.O.

Relationships don't expand without first sharing common places. Whether those places are physical spaces, common interests or mutual conversations, they are necessary for connection.

I'm sure we've all put ourselves in situations where we attended an event out of obligation but discovered we really enjoyed ourselves. You can see the growth and enjoyment that came from participating. I hope we all have many stories of successful relationships that develop when we take a step and enter into a new experiences. Yeah us!  

But what about the experiences we shy away from?  Have we examined the lost opportunity in order to challenge ourselves to move forward?  Let's consider what it might have taken to step into a new experience when we were uncertain.  Let's consider the difference between an opportunity that welcomed us versus an opportunity where we were invited, personally, to participate.

Recently, while attending the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability, I had the opportunity to hear Eric Carter share the results of some research he and his team had recently conducted at the Kennedy Center at Vanderbilt University.  This research found that 52% of adults impacted by intellectual and developmental disabilities do not belong to a faith community.  Perhaps this is explained by the fact that 56% of parents state that faith communities lack the necessary support to include their child. When the researchers turned their attention to the faith communities, they found only 18% of churches offered any kind of intentional focus to invite those with disabilities.

Certainly our faith communities intend to be welcoming, but maybe this is where we begin to see that offering a welcoming environment just simply isn't enough. You see, uncertainty is a barrier for us all. In order to take that step and be included when welcomed we might need an intentional, thoughtful invitation. Invitations are personal while welcomes are general.  Particularly for those who have had past experiences that have not been positive, they might need an extended hand in order to take that next step.

While I believe our communities of worship should be positioned to best model a personal, meaningful invitation, it doesn't stop there.  If we're to take the next steps toward full community inclusion, truly creating experiences for us all to share common places, we must challenge ourselves beyond general welcoming.  It's time for us to extend thoughtful, personal invitations. Who will you be inviting today to join you in a new experience?

Friday, May 6, 2016

Follow directions -- or drive change

 By Marisa Geitner, president and C.E.O.

As I continue to study and experience the Reggio Emilia-inspired philosophy as it is lived out through our Expressive Beginnings Child Care, I am amazed at how in step it is with our community-wide conversation on full citizenship. With interactions structured to provoke questions, learning becomes individualized and self directed, even in shared learning environments. This allows children, as they develop their sense of self, to also understand their contribution and belonging within any new experience. A Reggio-inspired teacher might challenge others by ensuring that the children spend much more time asking questions than they do following directions. 

How do we begin to enrich our adult conversations in the same way Reggio-inspired teachers enrich the conversation with youth? By showing an interest in others we are in conversation with and asking another question, opening them up to their unique story and their unique contribution. As we improve our ability to truly listen, it allows us the opportunity to engage in conversation differently.

It is in these enriched conversations that we'll advance by:
Seeking to listen, understand and respect the perspective of others.
Trusting one another to set aside the judgment that can limit our ability as human beings to dig into the tough stuff.

Let's work hard to have the kind of conversations that welcome others into the struggle that limits justice, freedom and the rights of others. Superficial conversations lead to superficial solutions, enriched conversations lead to true and just social change. It can't be achieved alone. It takes the work of a full community.

Where do you see the need for social change? How are you welcoming others into conversations that lead change? 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Advocacy at the right time, not all the time

By Andrey Khabursky, residence manager

Advocacy. What is it? What's it look like, feel like, and what makes it so significant and powerful?
Advocacy is the power to change the life of a person, a culture, a people.

Advocacy, whether spoken or unspoken is the driving force that brings us alongside our best intentions, and many times brings them to reality.

A few weeks ago "advocacy" became a redefined term for me. One of the gentlemen who live in a home supported by Heritage Christian staff had gone into the hospital, and after 5 days and 4 nights, he was ready to come home. The team at large stood on the fence, not comfortable to make a decision either way. I struggled through the channels of communication, hierarchy, and positional authority in order to take on the critical role of being an advocate in a new, very defined role. Much of the team looked at his past history, which is important, but they didn’t look at his current condition and honor what he wanted. We call this the “what ifs.” These what ifs could keep all of us from living a fulfilled and meaningful life, and moreover, keep us from offering the opportunity for others to do the same. As his housemates welcomed him home, he just "lit up" and a sense of refreshment washed over him.

So whether we're "thinking outside the box," or standing our ground on behalf of those we serve and support, we should always take their best interest into account when we become "their voice" for that moment. Like for you and I, there have been moments when we had someone come alongside us, and speak up for us, and make things happen. It's OK to be their voice, but may it be just for a moment... long enough to bring about change, build confidence and leave a lasting impact. Many times we want to be the voice of advocacy, not only at the right times, but all the time. We need to constantly reevaluate to see if we’ve taken their voice away or if we are being that push to get them going. Let’s think of their voice as a bobsled… many times, those we support only need that push to really get moving and the rest is driven by them. Often for our comfort, we long to hold on to that bobsled as it flies through the course at 70mph, and continue to be an advocate, not realizing, our advocacy was accomplished long ago.

Advocacy may be just the simple act of standing with another; unity.

Advocacy done right is empowering.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Listening for social change

By Marisa Geitner, president and C.E.O

Listening is an art, and if we aren't careful it might become a lost art.  

I believe most people want to be better listeners, so how do we improve?  

Daily discipline. Conversation by conversation.  

First, slow down. Take a breath. Look at the person (see his eyes and mouth). Focus.  Next really pay attention, don't allow yourself to be distracted by the people or activity that surrounds you. When it is your turn to speak (there is never a good reason to interrupt) ask clarifying questions. This is not your chance to persuade or convince – you are the listener.  Finally, validate what you've heard and validate the person who has shared it. Thank her for sharing her time and thinking with you.

We know listening is an important skill for our personal development but it is also essential for social change. You see, social change requires congruent vision, collaboration and civility. Like any strong relationship it requires respect and mutual contribution and concession.  A stunning percentage of people when asked "When do you most feel respected?" will answer in some form or fashion "when I am heard."

We are hardwired as social beings so that belonging and contributing are important to us all. That's why most people prefer to talk to great listeners, not great speakers.

Collective impact will stall and social change will lag when we don't listen and hear one another, when we don't demonstrate value and respect to all as contributors.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Grilling and growing independence

Lewis Hopkins is an associate director of program development - residential. Today he shares with us some things he noticed as he drove past a home where he knew staff supported people – and how one small change influenced bigger change.

Sometimes it is easier to see things that may need to change, from the outside, and I had the opportunity to look into the window. I noticed that when I drove by, it was always staff members who were outside grilling, not the people who lived there. It seemed like an easy fix toward giving ownership back to the folks who lived there.  I have to be honest. I did not know that it was going to lead to everything that came after that.

It took a year or so and a lot of work from everyone involved – including nurses, the quality assistance department, support from my supervisors, dietitians, staff, families and the individuals.  In the beginning there was a lot of push back maybe due to fear or just change, or maybe both, but with each hurdle we got over, the confidence grew with all involved and it began to open more doors for everyone. Before you knew it people where doing more and more on their own and it became a challenge among each other. The families saw the happiness that independence could bring to someone and they started looking at things differently.

It was great to be part of a movement like this and to see the hard work and dedication pay off.  But, at the end of the day, the most important thing that came out of this was to see voices being heard and people taking ownership of their own lives. And to think it all came from a grill.  

If someone had asked me what I was going to focus on, and the answer had been the grill, some people may have looked at me like I was crazy. So the next time someone asks you what your plan is, it does not have to be this huge mind-blowing idea, it can be something small that turns out to be much more than just a grill.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Share Gratitude

By Marisa Geitner, president and C.E.O
"In daily life we must see that it is not happiness the makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy."- Brother David Steindl-Rast

One of the daily disciplines we have at Heritage Christian Services is to say "Thank You" with sincere gratitude.  It spreads happiness and provides encouragement to ourselves and others. It shapes the way we see our day. 

Far too often our attention is drawn to what didn't go as planned.  What fell short and why?  Why didn't others respond in the way in which we'd hoped.  Exercising a grateful heart has a way of bringing everything into perspective, we see the good along with the bad and that makes it easier to move through disappointment.

Gratitude also helps us appreciate what is right in front of us instead of focusing on what we want in the future. Tackling our goals with graciousness allows us to focus on experiences that provide a strong foothold for the climb ahead.

Most importantly, gratitude strengthens relationships.  Not only does that improve our ability to thrive with others but it also makes us healthier. Grateful people have been shown to carry less stress and benefit more from the release of chemicals within our body that help us feel better and stay healthier.

Spend time today seeking the things that you are grateful for in each experience.  Rest your head on your pillow tonight and remind yourself of how you shared gratitude with others. As we develop our sense of gratitude it becomes natural for us to share it with others in diverse and sincere ways.

What are you most grateful for today?

Monday, February 22, 2016

The path to more positive supports

Today we are happy to introduce you to Vicki Reina, director of behavior services at Heritage Christian. Enjoy as she shares a bit of her journey...

I was approached over a year ago to consider supporting behavioral challenges differently, specifically: How can we support people without the use of restraint? This was such a foreign concept that I shelved it, believing the supports we had were great and that we were mindful of why and when those supports were used.  Later, I spoke with someone I knew who worked at an agency that had successfully implemented restraint-free behavior support. He said doing so was “the greatest accomplishment of his career.” I respected him, I knew his career was long and successful, and it was at that moment I believed maybe we could, too.

The idea took hold and with two amazing colleagues we began to explore the idea, focusing first on education. We knew we needed to give people more tools to avoid using restraint.  We modified our curriculum and increased guidance on how to change people’s lives with love, respect, meaningfulness, and relationships.

The next step was changing our language: words matter and the words we use to describe negative behavior end up defining people.  The words we use tell people what to think. First, the behavior team shifted from using “negative behavior” to “challenges.”  We all have challenges. We all have things we want to do less of, or improve on. This one word shift eliminates otherness and connects us. Other words became highlighted: noncompliance, refusals and inappropriate. Ultimately, these words are used to say someone isn’t doing what you want them to do. What they really mean is the person has made a choice. This choice may not be healthy, or the one you would like them to make, but people make decisions in their lives. 

Maya Angelo said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” This articulates the evolution of positive supports. We continue on this journey, exploring new ways to provide safe, meaningful supports. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Working to unite

By Marisa Geitner, president and C.E.O.

Humans are complex – and that means not everything is an easy fix.

For more than 30 years we’ve supported people with developmental disabilities by providing support that encourages people to learn and grow and give back to their community. And still, when we look at the statistics, we see that the unemployment rate for people with a disability is more than double the rate for those without.

We see that only 5 percent of Americans know what it is like to have a coworker who has an intellectual disability and that Rochester ranks No. 1 in the nation for the percentage of people who live in poverty and have a disability.

So, if we truly mean to partner with people who have disabilities so they can accomplish what matters most in their lives, we must also commit to joining other people and agencies in fighting poverty and other inequalities. And one way we do that is by working one-on-one with people to find a right-fit job because when people share their strengths in the workplace, they are valued by their co-workers. They form relationships. They gain confidence, and they bring home a paycheck.

They make progress for themselves and for others.

In fact, the United Nations Economic and Social Council “recognizes that poverty eradication and employment in decent jobs are crucial to achieving social integration and a society for all.”

That’s why we started the Employment Alliance to help match employers with talented people who have disabilities and that’s why we participated in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle’s Unite Rochester Challenge – because we want to offer career services to others who are  marginalized, too.
We recognize that uniting Rochester across racial and economic lines is complex, but paychecks help more than our bank accounts. They help in creating a more equal society.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Honoring the voices of children

Friends, it is my pleasure to open up this space and introduce you to Kelly Giudice. Kelly is the director of operations at Expressive Beginnings at Toddler’s Workshop in Webster, and she has some very insightful words to share with us today. – Marisa Geitner, president and C.E.O., Heritage Christian Services

Kelly Giudice
One of the things that matters most to me, and to many of my colleagues, is the need for children to fully experience their right to empowerment and engagement in the educational process.

We have been working very hard through our classroom work, documentation, newsletters and more to show our families examples of honoring the children's innate approach to knowledge acquisition. We are striving every day to create a culture that values the self-directed learning of children.

Our belief in their ability to create and construct their own knowledge and to formulate and express their ideas in new and creative ways is the cornerstone of our program.

Their world is so often dominated by the voices of others, let us focus together on their voices. Through our listening, observing, and trusting we are demonstrating our belief in their value, their capabilities and potentials, and supporting the idea that each of them is a unique and amazing gift to the world! 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Extending the welcome

By: Marisa Geitner, President and C.E.O.

Belonging is such a significant part of our natural fiber.  Not specifically belonging as a possession, we are all autonomous, but connected as a naturally part of something bigger.  We all need to feel relevant within our relationships with others.  It is well established that this sense of connectedness is important to our overall health, happiness and ability to adjust within this ever-changing world.

If you have strong and broad relationships perhaps that sense of belonging is something you might take for granted and only appreciating it when you find yourself in a moment of disconnect.  You know the feeling, perhaps you're the first to meet friends at a local restaurant and find yourself standing alone amidst strangers awkwardly while you wait. It's silly how fast you can become uncomfortable when you find yourself not connected to those around you.

If you aren't as fortunate to have relationships and experiences that consistently feed your sense of belonging, the sting of disconnect can be much more pervasive and destructive than a few awkward moments waiting alone.   The right to belong, a recognized basic human need, is the cornerstone of the drive for inclusion for those who might otherwise be excluded, perhaps due to age, race, intellectual ability, religion or other reasons.  Supporting inclusive communities isn't just essential for promoting diversity, it is essential for supporting belonging.  Affording all the opportunity to feel value and respect through the give and take of relationships with others.  

Belonging can be fed in many ways, often times more through meaningful daily exchanges than through grand gestures or events. Perhaps just a thoughtful message from a friend that lets you know they're thinking about you or a call from a family member you haven't seen in a while. Perhaps you are reaching out to connect to others, offering a kind greeting to someone passing by or offering to take the grocery cart back to the store after someone else has just loaded his groceries into his car.  Maybe you feel a sense of belonging with a faith community, or common group of sports fans.  The librarian at your neighborhood library, or the attendant where you most often fill up your car.  Whether others are reaching out to us or whether we are reaching out to others, these exchanges feed our sense of belonging.  

In our work at Heritage Christian we often find ourselves centering on one very specific question for each and every one of us.  Where is the one place that if you weren't there you would be missed? And how can we extend the welcome so that all those who choose our services find places to belong as well?